Sunday, June 27, 2010
Walter Higgins ...
It seemed life's journey for Walter Higgins had always been an uphill climb ... as a young boy he had suffered from the awful scourge of paralytic polio leaving his legs bent and weak ... as a result, Walter could but hobble along with the aid of crutches, or he would get down on gloved hands and padded knees and crawl about ... Walter had never been popular among the other children, they usually shunned or openly ignored him when playing or doing other physically demanding activities ... life was a day-to-day struggle for Walter Higgins, and he often wondered if he would ever be of any positive worth to his fellow man ... one thing that kept Walter from giving up was his faith in God and the hope that someday his existence would be meaningful and important to others ... another thing was that Walter Higgins could swim! ... right after Walter's birth his mother and father had taken him to a friend's pool and dropped him right into the tepid water ... naturally, the child began to swim ... before long he was diving beneath the surface all on his own and swimming around like an energetic and playful seal ... over the years swimming became Walter's favorite activity, and he often spent hours at the local swimming hole or the public pool, often from early morning until darkness fell ... Walter was free when in that water, his legs didn't matter all that much then ... and although polio had left him with a weakened heart, swimming was the one thing he was more proficient at than anyone else around ... nobody could swim as good as Walter Higgins!
Now Walter's lifelong dream had been to see the ocean some time before his death, he wanted to feel the warmth of the sand beneath his feet and the gentle ocean breeze against his face ... but more than anything else, Walter yearned-for the chance to one day dive into those warm, briny depths and carelessly swim away the hours ... well Walter's dream was about to become reality when his church planned a day trip to the beach, and Walter had been invited to accompany the group at no cost to him ... on the day of the outing Walter was absolutely elated, this was definitely the happiest day of his life and he could hardly wait to hit the sandy beach and the blue water ... upon their arrival an excited Walter was the first from the van as he jumped right onto that scorching, hot sand on all fours then quickly made his way to the water's edge ... he hesitated but for a moment, then glanced back at the others with a huge smile that stretched from ear to ear ... Walter could no longer contain himself as he dove into that wonderful water and swam ... and swam ... and swam ... Walter was free once again ... nobody could swim as good as Walter Higgins!
The day wore on and the hours seemed to fly by far too rapidly, and as the sun began its lazy descent on the horizon the pleasant winds had turned into a near gale inciting the surging waves to roll a bit more forcefully ... most folks were now exhausted, particularly Walter, and had already made their way back onto the safety of the beach, except for a small sailboat still bouncing dangerously about quite a distance from shore in the roiling water ... a man and his young daughter desperately holding on for dear life as the diminutive skiff crashed against the now violent waves ... just as the group was about to climb back into the van for the long journey home somebody screamed that the tiny craft had capsized ... everybody on the beach immediately looked to discover that the man was now floating on his back having been knocked unconscious, while his daughter was helplessly trying to grasp the bottom of the boat, but beginning to lose her grip each time she slipped beneath the churning water ... somebody had to do something or the child would certainly drown, but nobody there was capable of swimming that far out to save her ... except for Walter ... nobody could swim as good as Walter Higgins!
Walter rolled out of that van landing onto the gritty sand on all fours and began crawling toward the water's egde as fast as he could, then without hesitation dove right in and began swimming with all his might in the direction of the overturned boat ... Walter was already bone-tired from swimming all day, but the thought of that girl drowning right before his eyes gave him a sudden burst of energy and a second wind as he swam seemingly effortlessly to her aid ... by the time Walter reached the capsized sailboat the man had regained consciousness, but was too weak to be of any real assistance as he too now clung to the side of the vessel ... his daughter however was nearly at the point of total exhaustion, and about to slip beneath the surface for the final time just as Walter grabbed her around her waist with one arm and began swimming back toward shore with the other ... reality was beginning to set in and the adrenalin rush was fading away as Walter began to feel the effects of this life-threatening encounter on his own twisted body ... with his last ounce of strength Walter made it back to shore and collapsed just as he delivered the quivering girl into the waiting arms of anxious onlookers ... everybody was overjoyed and gathered round to embrace the horrified child as her father finally managed to also get himself ashore and join her ... hardly anybody noticed that Walter Higgins was lying motionless in a heap.
The dire and trying experience combined with extreme fatigue was too much for Walter's disease-stricken heart and he was gone ... his lifelong desire to see the ocean before his death had come to fruition ... and he had passed with the knowledge that he had preserved that little girl's life, a feat nobody else there was capable of doing ... because nobody could swim as good as Walter Higgins! ... he also finally realized that his existence was meaningful and important to others and of positive worth to his fellowman ... this was definitely the happiest day of his life ... and as Walter Higgins stands with a huge smile stretching from ear to ear ... on some beautiful and faraway shore ... overlooking the crystal sea ... watching the sun continue its lazy descent on the distant horizon ... a gentle ocean breeze caressing his face and the warmth of the sand beneath his feet ... he thinks for just a moment that he might dive right into those briny depths and carelessly swim away the hours ... but there's plenty of time for that ... Walter Higgins would much rather stroll around heaven with his now straight and sturdy legs and strong new heart ... he is free once again, truly free ... and you see ... now nobody can walk as good as Walter Higgins!